Darwin was Wrong – Conference and Webcast

I have recently been listening to some dialog on the topic of Creation and Evolution, and have generally found it very frustrating. It seems to me that the proponents of each view are, on the whole, talking past each other. Creationists say transitional fossils, claimed necessary by Darwin himself for his theory, are largely missing. Evolutionists on the other hand concede that they are missing (Gould) or that they are not missing (various people), both of which support evolution. My plea — can we please have definitions spelled out clearly before these discussions, and can we have the evidence honestly put in front of our eyes. Hand-waving arguments are just not sufficient! Anyways…

This conference — full of PhDs — looks like it might be a bit interesting.  I hope they release the MP3s or videos online.

http://logosresearchassociates.org/coming_events.htm

Darwin was Wrong - Conference and Webcast

32 replies
  1. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Its apparent that someone does care if Darwin was wrong!

    I agree its important what the facts say now, but facts can only ‘speak’ through the lens of an interpretative scheme. As Darwin’s thoughts are foundational to the contemporary evolutionary mindset, its important to re-evaluate first principles every now again.

  2. david w
    david w says:

    Creationists say transitional fossils, claimed necessary by Darwin himself for his theory, are largely missing. Evolutionists on the other hand concede that they are missing (Gould)…

    That about sums up the way creationists argue. Gould never said there were no transitional fossils, from one essay:

    The third argument is more direct: transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. The lower jaw of reptiles contains several bones, that of mammals only one. The non-mammalian jawbones are reduced, step by step, in mammalian ancestors until they become tiny nubbins located at the back of the jaw. The “hammer” and “anvil” bones of the mammalian ear are descendants of these nubbins. How could such a transition be accomplished? the creationists ask. Surely a bone is either entirely in the jaw or in the ear. Yet paleontologists have discovered two transitional lineages of therapsids (the so-called mammal-like reptiles) with a double jaw joint—one composed of the old quadrate and articular bones (soon to become the hammer and anvil), the other of the squamosal and dentary bones (as in modern mammals). For that matter, what better transitional form could we expect to find than the oldest human, Australopithecus afarensis, with its apelike palate, its human upright stance, and a cranial capacity larger than any ape’s of the same body size but a full 1,000 cubic centimeters below ours? If God made each of the half-dozen human species discovered in ancient rocks, why did he create in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features—increasing cranial capacity, reduced face and teeth, larger body size? Did he create to mimic evolution and test our faith thereby?

    Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.

    Add to that whales, early tetrapods, brids and you have to wonder how could possibly claim there are no transitional forms…

  3. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hi David,

    Can I ask you what you think Gould did mean by his statement:

    “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches … in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.” (http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/texas-mandates-teaching-the-trade-secret-of-paleontology/)

  4. david w
    david w says:

    If you read the whole essay “The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change in The Panda’s Thumb instead of relying on the uncommonly dense version you’ll see that Gould is talking about speciation (which creationists are largely very much ok with) – not large scale transitions like the evolution of birds or whales.

    Further, the quote mined section “in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.” is talking about how fossils appear in rocks NOT how species appear in the field

    It’s that kind of quote mining that made Gould write that last quoted sentence from my first post:

    Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.

  5. Rob
    Rob says:

    H again David,

    I presume that by “uncommonly dense”, you are referring to Uncommon Descent? :-)

    I cannot find a copy of the essay you mention on the web, and Panda’s Thumb is unfortunately not available for preview on Google Books.

    When you quote: “a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed”, where is this quote from? Is it from the aforementioned essay? I cannot see how this quote helps at all to rebut the earlier claim “quote mined” from Gould. Instead, it seems to reinforce it.

    Last question – if indeed the fossil record does show the sudden appearance of fully formed creatures, where then is the evidence AGAINST special creation, or FOR Darwinian gradualism? I don’t know much about strict creationist thinking on this, but I do understand that they are believers in rapid speciation as you mention (which seems to be confirmed by Gould’s quote).

  6. david w
    david w says:

    I’m not going to get into a debate here because that’s about the definition of futility.

    a species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed”, where is this quote from?

    It’s your quote.

    Last question – if indeed the fossil record does show the sudden appearance of fully formed creatures, where then is the evidence AGAINST special creation, or FOR Darwinian gradualism? I don’t know much about strict creationist thinking on this, but I do understand that they are believers in rapid speciation as you mention (which seems to be confirmed by Gould’s quote).

    That’s the whole point, when Gould is talking about ‘fully formed’ creatures appearing he’s talking about very fine scale differences between two closely related species. You wouldn’t expect to find every gap in that kind of series because fossilisation is ridiculously improbable (although there are plenty of cases in marine invertebrates where just such a series has been preserved).

    But when you look at the differences that exercise creationists – the journey from ungulate to whale, fish to tetrapod etc we have some great transitional forms.

  7. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi David, thanks for your input. I enjoyed following your link and reading a number of your articles. They sparked a number of questions in my mind. Anyway, on this topic, it occurs to me that creationists would agree with a number of ‘transitional’ series that you may refer to. Yet, joining fossils does seem to be a bit of an arbitrary affair, and ungulate to whale is probably a good example of this. The point of agreement I was referring to, is that Judeo-Christian history does hold an identification of ‘kinds’ (which is not specifically detailed for us) and a subsequent diversification in these kinds. The point of contention for creationists is in the building of new genetic structures through gradual change. A reduction in genetic information, in structure, or a horizontal change in information is not against the point of view of creationists. Indeed, they hold that all was created perfect and has since then been decaying. It is why I think the most illuminating discoveries will come from within genetics and not palaeontology. There is far too much story-telling in palaeontology. I did read some of your genetic articles. Very good too. Cheers.

  8. Rob
    Rob says:

    So I guess that if “fossilisation is ridiculously improbable”, then we can agree that the fossil record does not (or cannot) really support the claim of macro evolution.

    It may still be consistent with organisms changing over time (and in that case, special creation too), but could not be said to provide definitive evidence.

    I would like to know then how different fossils in a “transitioning” series prove change over time rather than simply being evidence of distinct species or special creation. What is the best evidence that we have to show that transitionals really are transitionals.

  9. david w
    david w says:

    Hi Guys,

    I’m not going to have enough time to provide a complete answer here and it does
    kind of feel like you guys have made your minds up already…

    First the “is this fossil transitional” question. The idea of a transitional
    fossil is really a human construct – early whales were not aiming to become
    modern whales and Tiktaalik wasn’t lurching from the water in a hope to take
    over the land. “Transitional” is only a term we can apply in hindsight once
    and evolutoinary change has occured (if there are transitional species alive
    today wouldn’t know about it). The question you are really asking is can we
    place these fossils in an evolutoinary lineage and the answer is yes. Looking
    at whales again the genetic evidence says that modern whales are most closely
    related to hippos and other ungulates.That makes a testable prediction, if whales
    descend from early ungulates then early whales should have the unique “two pully”
    ankle bone of that group. And that’s just what you find. More to the point, and
    as Gould says, why would a creator make a series of synapdsids in which the jaw
    bones migrate over time to form the Mamallian ear? To the extend to which special
    creation is testable it is found wanting.

    Jonathon, you talked about genetic information. No one I’ve ever heard talk about
    this point (certainly not Dembski or Meyer) define that term in a way that puts
    such a claim to the test. For any sensible defination of information new genetic
    information is easy (take a gene that does something, duplicate it, change one copy)
    and has been observed many, many times. For some definitions of information an
    evolutoinary process is actually the optimal way of gaining information!

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Information is the problem term for you, I think. As long as you hold that there is information you are rationally obliged to believe that it is the product of intelligence.

  11. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart, you will not be abe to define the entity ‘information’ such that it does what you want. For example, the asteroid belt contains information as to where craters will appear on the inner planets in the future. Threre is no demarcation. If one postulates information (e.g. in DNA), then everything has it (e.g. craters) . If one denies that one thing has it (craters aren’t information), nothing does (including DNA).

  12. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Andrew W.

    All information requires intelligence once you distinguish it from randomness and simple order. Good question. I’m glad to answer it. See bellow.

    Simon,

    With the distinction that follows in mind between information, randomness and simple order. you should be able to see that the example you have given is inappropriate.

    – – the following is an extract from a paper I’ve been developing – –

    Scientists have been careful in how they distinguish between randomness, simple order and information. Organizations like SETI have needed such careful definitions so they know what they are looking for, and can recognize it when they find it.

    Randomness is both simple and non-specific. An example of randomness would be if I were to spill alphabet soup on the table. If I were to give instructions to a computer for creating a random sequence, I would give it two instructions, 1) Select any letter, and 2) Repeat. The sequence I would get might be A, P, G, 9, N, 6. That sequence is simple and non-specific.

    Examples of simple order are sodium chloride – also known as table salt – other crystalline structures like glass, and water. To create a sequence of 500 ME’s, I would instruct a computer to 1) Select an M, 2) Select an E, 3) Repeat. Simple order is therefore, Simple, Specific, Repetitive, and finally the parts are prior to the whole. This last means the individual ME’s are selected before the entire sequence of ME’s, the consequence being if one part of the sequence was removed it wouldn’t do anything essential to the whole.

    Information is entirely different to simple order. Examples of information rich sequences include language, codes, and equations. For instance, the message “John loves Mary” is information. It is information because it is 1) Not simple – there are 15 instructions to create that sequence, 2) Specific – because every letter needs to be there in the right order, 3) Not repetitive, 4) The whole is prior to the parts. That last means the parts are integral to the whole, such that if I removed or replaced a letter here or there the meaning would be lost.
    . . .
    Now SETI researches make the assumption that information is the product of an intelligent mind. That I think is a good assumption. If I was on the beach and I saw shapes inscribed in the sand “All-black rule, Aussies drool!” it is more reasonable to believe an intelligent mind is responsible rather than believe it was from an accidental natural process of an incoming wave or erosion from the wind. But if that is a reasonable assumption for SETI, that should also be a reasonable assumption for molecular biologists. . .

    – – End of extract – –

    The syllogism is; DNA is an information bearing molecule (not at all a controversial claim), information is a product of intelligence (a claim that is at least more reasonable than its contradictory), Therefore, the information found in DNA is the product of intelligence, 4) Therefore, there is an intelligence that contrived all currently known biological life.

  13. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    A good definition of information comes from Werner Gitt.

    If you read German, you can get the original, Am Anfang war die Information or you may like the English translation In the beginning was information

    Gitt’s specific definition of information is that it is always present when, in an observable system, all of the following five hierarchical levels are present: statistics, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and apobetics. Very quickly:

    Statistics: the occurrence of entities taken as letters with analysis possible like frequency (the level that the mathematician Claude E Shannon developed)
    Syntax: Only certain combinations of the entities (ie letters) form meaningful words
    Semantics: There may be statistics and syntax, but the essential part is the meaning or message
    Pragmatics: Information invites action. Whether it gets action or not is irrelevant.
    Apobetics: There is a result or consequence. The receiver has a goal or plan desired by the sender.

    A read of his book would flesh these out for you. I expect a number of you to have problems with his subsequent conclusions and God-world-view, but that is irrelevant to the definition of information that is proposed.

  14. david w
    david w says:

    Stuart and Jonathon.

    It’s the weekend and a sunny one at that so, again, this reply will be brief.

    1) Not simple – there are 15 instructions to create that sequence, 2) Specific – because every letter needs to be there in the right order, 3) Not repetitive, 4) The whole is prior to the parts. That last means the parts are integral to the whole, such that if I removed or replaced a letter here or there the meaning would be lost.

    OK, DNA doesn’t carry information in this sense. Strictly, criteria 2,3 and 4 are not met by DNA – you can reorder genes and they still make useful proteins, genes can be repetitive (concatenation is probably an important source of new functions) and you can remove lots of DNA from genes and have them continue to work.

    Git is even worse, as far as I can tell he simple asserts there is no information without mind the assumes the genome has information of the sort he’s talking about. Weird.

  15. Andrew W
    Andrew W says:

    2) Specific – because every letter needs to be there in the right order,

    And yet Stuart’s 6:13 pm comment is still deemed to contain information.

  16. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hope you had a great sunshine day David. :-)

    Yep, I can re-order my paragraphs and each paragraph still transmits the same meaning. Since a gene is defined as containing the complete information to make the protein, reordering the genes means the gene (singular) will still be able to make the functional protein. If I move this paragraph below the next one, it is still going to say the same thing. Of course, the critical section in a gene is the chain that directly translates to the protein. Mess with the order of the nucleotides and you break the functional protein. At this point, analogies to written text do not convey the reality as effectively as binary code that is passed into a CPU for “translation”. But you probably already know this and it makes me wonder why you did not identify it.

    Gitt (with two t’s) is great. He has done what you (David) said you have never heard (comment 10): Provided a specific definition of the term ‘information’ that can be put to the test. Gitt’s definition is tight enough to be scientific. A definition that allows dust, cyclic patterns, random patterns, or non-useful sequences of DNA to be called ‘information’ is clearly wanting when the purpose is to identify whether something is ‘information’ or not. Maybe my explanation of Gitts definition was lacking. (More likely than not) If you want to find that definition that you say is missing, Gitt would be a good place to start.

    Andrew W, your brevity has not entirely made clear the information that you intended to convey. Yet, it is a fair enough point to consider this quote from Stuart’s 6:13 pm comment:

    , w a rRnv,e,s uttwoled.qeelao acn- npocr f6enleseieiwf-ieg gmn ed,I.oexam aibp Pdlso et,mmeusd9sost ctue ,cIououncnpnmesAin e dmsp eehpeva attailfoe.en dnaeoimi cpSlgi gIsnnepso1ai tienisN Asnp dt Glei pielt wst eIt,r R qpbo u o lIrfta e.rh)Tc obwu ri2iqcssmhdesuoruei tetl,tsretiofe neohdby e lecngrl )w toace .fr ssT htt aa o nn acbn n tn tuhcao ine

    I hope that clarifies this somewhat.

  17. Andrew W
    Andrew W says:

    Obvously i is makin th point tha evin wif leters rong thers stil info.

    I don’t see anything above that refutes the point that Simon makes, information is everywhere and in everything, scientists can learn things from studying anything, even NaCl crystals.

    It’s the process of interpreting and using the information that’s important to life.

    Gitt is just trying to make standard a definition of the word that’s self-serving.

  18. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Andrew W

    Obvously i is makin th point tha evin wif leters rong thers stil info.

    The point is mute as simple redundancy in the English language, or in any code, does not preclude it being information bearing. DNA may similarly have redundancy but it is still an information bearing molecule according to all the criteria 1 through 4. Removing letters, shuffling sentences and paragraphs do not necessarily remove its information content – it just garbles the message so it is no longer optimal.

    It’s the process of interpreting and using the information that’s important to life.

    That’s a chicken and egg system – which came first, the information or the interpretation. As its the information that is the subject of the inference to an intelligence, the point is mute again, because there is still information.

    I don’t see anything above that refutes the point that Simon makes, information is everywhere and in everything, scientists can learn things from studying anything, even NaCl crystals.

    Simon’s point is refuted as NaCl crystals are not information according to the distinction made by my definition. So information is not everywhere, rather simple order and randomness is everywhere.

  19. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Andrew, your definition of “information”, while quite possibly a valid version and use of the word, is entirely useless. As you stated, everything becomes information. The grit in my eye, empty space or the waste I produce. (Empty space contains the information that nothing is there, right?) It cannot discern anything. The concealed concept of your definition is that an intelligent identity (mind) is actually required to extract the information.

    RE Gitt; maybe his definition is self-serving and maybe it isn’t. I don’t know whether that is true or not. And I am not aware how you could honestly know either. (Maybe your statement is self-serving.) The point I want to make here is that this is totally irrelevant. Motives are not admissible if logic is the ruling process. And I request that we discuss under the authority of reason and logic. Thanks.

    Back to your corrupted sentence.

    Obvously i is makin th point tha evin wif leters rong thers stil info.

    I note the following regarding this sentence

    1. You had a goal when you created the sentence. The goal was to convey a meaning, a concept to another entity. There was a goal to convince the receiver (me) that a jumbled sentence still has meaning, or possibly that a sequence does not need to be specific to convey information. (If that indeed was part of your goal, I got the point) Now, I step back and note that you had a goal when you created this ‘information’. Whether I got the full goal or not is unimportant when purely noting that the sender did have a goal.

    2. Underlining the first note, there was an action intent associated with the sentence. It was inviting me to accept a different definition of the word ‘information’.

    3. Regardless of the characters used, the intent remains separate. You could have used a different language to try and convey the intent. You could have used German, braille, sign language or speech. Despite the different methods of transmission, the intent or meaning is separate.

    4. The language that you attempted to use has syntax. Only certain combinations of letters form valid word. There is also a pre-existing convention agreed upon. If there wasn’t I could make neither head nor tails of what you wrote. Maybe my quote of Stuart is a good example to bring up. It has words and letters but is entirely unintelligible. (You will note that I took one paragraph from Stuart’s post and jumbled the letters.) The syntax is missing. Part of your intent appears to be a desire to convey the idea that syntax does not need to be exact to convey information. This is misleading. The syntax does need to be exact. What you have relied upon in this case is the ability of the receiver to correct faulty syntax in order to extract the desired information. Not all receivers of information have this ability. Computers do not correct and process machine code that is “close”. They process exactly what they are given, likewise with ribosomes and mRNA. Ribosomes don’t go, “Oh I know what you are wanting me to make here”, and then grab different amino acids from what is in the message.

    5. Your sentence has statistics. It was comprised of a set of letters that had a certain frequency and occurrence. This appears to be the level that you want to call information. My jumbled quote of Stuart conforms to this level as well, but it is clearly lacking.

    Here I have just used Gitt’s definition (in reverse) to conclude that what you wrote was actually information. That is, what you wrote had: apobetics, pragmatics, semantics, syntax (corrupted) and statistics. A number of posts back, David was saying that he had never seen a definition of information that was testable. Maybe we can agree that Gitt’s definition is actually testable. It is also very specific, which is what makes it useful – unlike a definition that says everything is information.

  20. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Stuart, it is great how you continually develop and explain ideas. You are a natural teacher. I was musing over your definition of information and concluded that you were heading towards what Gitt called Semantics. That is, the information content is separate from the mode of representation. Maybe you would like to develop this concept further in your definition. Cheers.

  21. david w
    david w says:

    One last comment from me.

    Jonathan, I’ve read a little bit of Gitt’s stuff and it seems pretty dismal to
    me. He just asserts things like “It is in the nature of every item of
    information that it is emitted by someone and directed at someone” without
    offering a proof or evidence for this idea. If you define information as
    requireing meaning and purpose then you also need to show that DNA has that
    kind of information but, like most creationists, he spends about 0.005% of his
    time thinking about biology.

    Stuart, DNA isn’t at all like a written language and functional DNA
    sequences certainly don’t meet three of your four criteria for information.
    Moreover, the assumption that information can only stem from intellegence has
    been disproved many times, in biology and computer
    simulations
    . In fact, as I mentioned earlier the optimal way to
    generate information about a fitness landscape is to randomly sample it and
    find out which variants do well. Like random mutation followed by natural
    selection. The ‘information’ in a genome is a report of the
    environments that its ancestors lived in.

    I think information theory is complete red herring in thse conversations, the
    fact people starting slipping in terms like ‘meaning’ and ‘semantics’ which
    have no mathmatical or scientific basis shows that what we are talking about
    are boring old teleological arguments. (The other thing is everyone that says
    evolution can’t make information also holds that mutation can destroy it but
    don’t explain why mutations in the opposite direction to the destructive ones
    can’t happen and be selected for…)

  22. Rob
    Rob says:

    With due respect David, “information” IS what I keep hearing about. Stephen Meyer (PhD, Cambridge University) for example has a new book that I think is focussed on this issue (Signature in the cell). I am really surprised that you are not encountering this language in your studies.

    As a presumably peer-reviewed example, here is a link that mentions Dembski’s recent publication in an IEEE journal.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/podcastss/podcasts-in-the-intelligent-design-controversy/

    I see that Wikipedia have poisoned Gitt as they have ID (last time I looked at it at least).

    As one who has somewhat of an engineering background, the encoding of binary sequences in DNA and their start and stop sections appear to have an awful lot in common with every data packet that is send over the internet. Such packets have encoding for the start and end of the information packet, built in cyclic redundancy checking for error correction and detection. The parallels between computer hardware and software, and the communications between items (keyboard and CPU for example) are a lot like biological systems except the the bio systems are a lot more complicated.

    Meyer’s Book is here: (http://www.signatureinthecell.com/):

    In Signature in the Cell, Dr. Stephen Meyer shows that the digital code embedded in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence and helps unravel a mystery that Darwin did not address: how did the very first life begin? Follow Dr. Meyer as he investigates how new scientific discoveries are pointing to intelligent design as the best explanation for the complexity of life and the universe.

  23. Simon
    Simon says:

    Andrew, your definition of “information”, while quite possibly a valid version and use of the word, is entirely useless.

    The definition of information is useless to someone with an unsupported agenda, sure. But it is far from useless. If string theory is correct everything is made of strings. Would that be useless? Course not. And everything in the universe is made from energy, in one form or another. That’s not useless either.
    I would invite people to read Charles Seife, Decoding the Universe or Seth Lloyd, Programming the Universe – both of these deal with the information paradigm.

    Personally I think that the ‘information’ content of DNA to be the most convincing argument for ID. There does seem to be something about DNA that is different to mere matter. But it seems that any attempt to describe this difference, is at once an attempt to reject materialism/determinism – because DNA is exactly that; just matter in motion – and these attempts always seem to fail.

    At any rate, the attempt to classify DNA as something special seems pointless given:

    Moreover, the assumption that information can only stem from intellegence has
    been disproved many times, in biology and computer
    simulations. In fact, as I mentioned earlier the optimal way to
    generate information about a fitness landscape is to randomly sample it and
    find out which variants do well. Like random mutation followed by natural
    selection. The ‘information’ in a genome is a report of the
    environments that its ancestors lived in.

    The writing is on the wall, I think. And almost all relevant academics can read it: The information in DNA arises from non-intelligent processes!

  24. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    To clarify, I said the definition was useless because by making “everything” information (which is what was done), it became impossible to distinguish exactly what information is. After all, it is everything! This has nothing at all to do with my agenda. It is just logic. For any definition at all to begin to be useful, it must be able to differentiate and select what is in the scope and what is not. Something that is “everything” means nothing. Bless Ya Simon!

    David wrote
    (The other thing is everyone that says evolution can’t make information also holds that mutation can destroy it but don’t explain why mutations in the opposite direction to the destructive ones can’t happen and be selected for…)

    Ok David, I do sort-of say this and I am more than happy to explain why I say it. Unfortunately, that takes time and space, but as you have said that “everyone” doesn’t explain it, it may be worth the time and space. I will note that many other people have indeed explained this, so I again wonder why you claim they have not. At the end, it may well be that you have made up an argument which no-one holds.

    1. Mutations in genetic structure do happen
    First up note that the processes of mutation, natural selection and adaptation are not disputed. So there is complete agreement in the truth of the scientific definition of the term “evolution”. As you noted earlier David, mutations do not have a direction. It is just a random change. So a lot about your current statement does rest in how we decide to define “direction” and what “information” is.

    2. Direction?
    Darwin himself best introduces our current point-of-contention in his own statement on what would falsify the GEM (Grand Evolutionary Myth – unaided molecules to man – goo to you via the zoo). And it is; any irreducibly complex feature that cannot be obtained in successive small step will disprove the ‘pulled-up-by-the-bootstraps’ version of evolution. So here we have a scientific theory and a scientific way to falsify it.

    The downward direction really is a no-brainer. Change part of the blueprint for a protein and note how the resulting protein no longer functions correctly. Check out the micro level of any genetic defect to see how functionality is lost. A good question is, “Are we building up variation by making new DNA or are we creating the variation by losing functionality within existing DNA?” A good example is probably blind cave fish that have no ability to see. Where there is light, fish that lose sight are killed very quickly by predators. In caves where there is no light, the environment selects slightly against sighted fish that can bumped into walls and receive eye injuries. Any mutation that causes a loss of a function can be called a “destruction of information”. For the blind fish, no longer is an eye built. Note also that almost all the information to make the eye is still sitting there in the genome. It can be just one tiny change that stuffs the whole building process. This is greatly underlined by noting that isolated blind-fish colonies are not at all likely to have the same mutation causing the blindness. So if you breed fish from these different colonies, you can end up with some sighted children as the functional (non-broken) section of DNA code is used from the appropriate parent. Naturalists and aNaturalists, have no problem with this downward scenario. If such a thing can result in new species, then so be it.

    Here are the two philosophical ideas: start with something perfect and when it mutates it loses a little functionality here and there and changes. Or start with almost nothing (life-wise) and when it mutates, it can build new functionality. For the second we can apply probabilities for we know the chemical bounds and structures. The immense probabilities against randomly throwing chemicals together to get a set of complex interacting machines that work together seamlessly, has lead to wholesale rejection of chance. You may grumble at how I have presented this because I said nothing about natural selection. Fair enough! Any change that results in a slight advantage for the organism will be selected for. So the question is still exactly what Darwin (smart guy) outlined. Can you get from A to B with every step between providing a selective advantage? Of course, we have all the stories at the maco-level. Some light receivers appeared some jelly appeared over them, the jelly shaped more, the light receivers shaped more and voila, you have an eye. (Very abused recount, I know) These stories are all useless (too harsh maybe?) for they are just stories. It is not science. We need to look at the micro level to determine whether a small change as outlined in the macro-story is at all possible. Is it really a small change? If it is found to be a change that requires thousands and thousands of nucleotides to be put in an exact order, we have discovered the criteria that falsifies the GEM. The more mutations required to get from A to B, without any intermediate selective advantage, the more improbable it becomes. You will note that the probability escalates so quickly because any change that is partway to a point of selective advantage is not held. It is open to be changed again.

    So maybe, all that now-unused eye DNA in blind fish can make some new functionality. It is an interesting concept. The pertinent part is still how much needs to be changed, without any selective advantage, to get that new functionality. And is the new functionality just a subset, remix of the original? I can destroy a mansion to build four huts, but where did the mansion come from? A block of units?

    People like me do not actually say that mutations in the information-creation direction can not happen and be selected for. (Note the problem if we use a non-specific definition of information – every change is actually information creation, it is the only available direction) What I say is that the series of steps needed to get workable new information is too large at the micro-level to be possible. By workable, I mean “able to be selected for”. It only works if you can proceed from one selectable advantage to another selectable advantage. If too much needs to be changed in one step, it does not work. It is possible and widely demonstrated that you can destroy things to get an advantage, think of blind cave fish, sickle-sell and a host of other examples used for evolution. Is the destruction of a working function, the path to a new function? For a more limited function, yes. To new and better functions, I do not think so. The objectors will call this “gap-pointing”. While the GEM does have a condition that can falsify it, we are not actually allowed to use the condition. If you do, you can be branded as not having enough imagination, a religious nut, or unscientific … ah ok.

    3. The relevance of your philosophical base
    If you claim naturalism, GEM is the only game in town and thus it must be true despite any evidence. A naturalist does not really have the option to take Darwin up on his avenue for falsification. It is nice to say that there is a way to falsify it (for then it becomes scientific), but you can not use it.

    Upon meeting God, you find another option is actually available. Sure God could have arranged for life to build up as GEM mandates (maybe these actually are principles of matter), but now the option also exists for the biological machines to have been created perfect and then begun the process of decay and change through mutation, adaptation and natural selection. You are never going to have this second option in naturalism. Thus the crux of the matter strangely ends up outside of science. Does God exist and can you meet him?

  25. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the explanation of you position. Interesting. I, for one, completely agree with you that macro-evolution is not falsifiable in practise, and that it is the only naturalist game in town. But GEM is just so….inexorable when you consider the dominance of (so far) naturalism in closing supernaturally-filled gaps. I am always amazed that religious people still hold on to the idea that god could have magicked species into existence despite the complete dearth of evidence for anything supernatural ever having occurred. And therein lies the contradiction of your position I think: You claim that GEM is unfalsifiable (and I agree with you), but the unfalsifiable ‘stick’ is kept conveniently – and I think shamefully – far, far away from your religious beleifs.

  26. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    In relation to a number of issues that you raised, very quickly.

    – Natural causes should be expected first. Appealing to ‘spiritual’ causes with no evidence is not valid … and yes, it happens a little too frequently from “religious” people. Sure, agreed. Yet it does not follow from this that spiritual events do not happen at all.

    – Spiritual people do not hold any “magic” actions of any sort. Your statement that God “magicked” [sic] species (atomic life) into existence, has already presupposed Gods existence. That is, you need the God before the “action” (making atomic combinations) can happen. If you grant Gods existence, then life was not magically made at all. It has been logically and feasibly built by an intelligent being. No magic there. It would be magic for a non-existent god to make life. In order to avoid conflating the issues though, it makes far more sense to just stick to the line that God does not exist. Branching out and claiming a particular action of a non-existent god is magic is just wasteful. Every action of a non-existent god has to be magic.

    – GEM actually is falsifiable. It is a scientific theory and has a scientific way to disprove it. The way to disprove such a theory has already been covered. It only moves beyond disprove if one comes with a pre-existing bias that everything must fit into naturalism. This is called faith-influencing science.

    – Supernatural events have occurred and do continue to occur. I have personally met plenty of people that I trust in their own account. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also a fully attested to supernatural event that occurred.

    – “Shame” can only really exist if there is a real truth and morality. Otherwise it is just someone imputing shame and I have no reason to accept that. Of course I do believe that there is a real truth and to deny the truth would indeed be shameful. Yet, you request the impossible. It is not a matter of convenience or shame. Your ‘stick’ is not relevant on the accusation that one can disprove the existence of something. Having total knowledge of the subject’s universe, is the prerequisite for disproving the existence of any particular subject (God included). It is very difficult to disprove the existence of something. It is not a matter of convenience or shame. For example, if someone says that he buried a perfectly cube, five-centimeter rock in the beach, you would have to examine the whole beach to disprove him and claim that the rock does not exist.. The inverse is well within reach though. You can prove the existence of something by experiencing it. If you went to the beach and dug up the five-centimeter cubic rock, you have ample reason to believe that it does in fact exist. You do not need total knowledge of the subject’s universe to prove something. You do need such to disprove something.

  27. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    It is obvious that by “magicked” I do not mean an action that is foreign or illogical to a supposed god. By “magicked” I mean something that is foreign, beyond and incomprehensible to us humans.

    – GEM actually is falsifiable….

    Yes, that is why I said that GEM is not falsifiable in practise. I am merely agreeeing with you when you, too claim it unfalsifiable in practise: “It is nice to say that there is a way to falsify it (for then it becomes scientific), but you can not use it.”(post 26)

    – Supernatural events have occurred and do continue to occur. I have personally met plenty of people that I trust in their own account. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also a fully attested to supernatural event that occurred.

    If a very learned person told you that GEM was true, would you adopt their view? Why not? You practise a brazen double standard when it comes to the supernatural and science.

  28. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Right on topic, here are a couple of evolution video worth watching.

    VIDEO 1: Evolution: The Grand Experiment
    VIDEO 2: Darwin’s Dilemma Part 1 of 2

    The first video documents a number of misleading articles and claims about evolution. Along with the scientist who fabricate and lie, there are some, fortunately, who are only concerned with truth.

    The second video looks at the Cambrian fossil record and some of the fascinating animals preserved in shale.

    On Double Standards

    It appears a fair enough accusation on the surface, but I think we need to dig a little on this one.

    If a very learned person told me that you could toss three hundred tennis balls into the air and they could land in such a manner that they formed a perfect tower, one balancing precisely on top of the other, I would not believe that very learned person. If they told me that you if you tried for 10 billion years and in that time, it could happen just once, I still would not believe them. And we should note perfectly well that there is nothing physically preventing such an event from occurring. Even so, I still do not believe because I have seen tennis balls bounce around. They do not form towers. Not even one balancing perfectly on top of the other. I have also tried to build a tower of just three tennis balls. I have no doubt that a probability could be calculated for the 300-tennis-ball tower just forming on its own. This almost belies the situation as one may be tempted to add time and claim that it will therefore happen at some point. Well it won’t

    The GEM does not even compare to this situation. The GEM is far, far more fantastically impossible with extreme appeals to chance occurring not once, but over and over again, every step along that way. Leaps from one functional protein to another functional protein. Leaps from one complex interacting machine to another complex interacting machine. Giant impossible leaps at the micro level. So given the unconvincing nature of the story, I ask why one would choose to believe it in the first place? The answer is simply because of a pre-commitment to naturalism. Which then leads me to ask why one has to believe in naturalism? We should ignore the circular reasoning that “As evolution accounts for all we know, we need nothing else and therefore naturalism is preferred.” The initial question was whether evolution is true. We can’t say that evolution is true because naturalism is true because evolution explains all and therefore naturalism is preferred. I do not accept pulled-up-by-the-bootstraps arguments.

    And so, take faith in naturalism with the belief that science can explain everything from undirected atoms and energy and you must accept the GEM. It makes no difference whether you are learned or not. I reject the GEM because if it stands alone (out of the naturalistic bent), it appears entirely false. I do not have a pre-commitment to naturalism. Don’t get me wrong here, I have already indicated that I am not opposed to GEM if that is really what happened. I am a truth seeker. Fortunately, I have the ability to accept it or reject it based on the scientific credentials alone. It is on this basis, that I reject it.

    Two standards for two different types of claims

    I have already fleshed this out a little so let me simply summarise here. A claim of “all that exists” is a weak claim. It is based on the depths of a person’s knowledge about the extent of the universe in question. I am talking in ‘set’ language here, where the ‘universe’ means the entire realm of the subject. The example I previous used was a cube buried in the beach. The claim that sand is all that is there, specifically disallowing the existence of the cube, is very weak. Even if a very learned man made such a claim, there is no real reason to believe him. Maybe he is right and maybe he is wrong. It seems fair enough to say so, and maybe we should believe him unless proven wrong.

    Compare this with the case of a person who dug up the cube. He has a strong claim. Given the learned man and the cube holder, I would certainly believe the cube-holder over the learned man. There are two types of claims here. One is, this I have experienced and know to be true. The other is assumption based on beliefs about the extent of what actually exists. One type of claim is immanently more believable than the other.

    I accept the witnessed and attested event of Jesus resurrection for it is the most reasonable conclusion. The facts say that Jesus lived. The facts says that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried under guard of roman soldiers. The facts say that over 500 people were willing to admit that they had meet Jesus after his death. The facts say that all these people were willing to be tortured to death, to lose their life for making the single statement that Jesus rose from the dead. I believe them. They themselves did not just believe. They are talking about something they experienced and knew the whether it was true or not. People who live such lives of integrity and peacefulness do not just submit themselves to torturous deaths for something they know to be a lie.

    Then add the hostile accounts: Saul, who was actually hunting down the first Christians because they told this “lie” about Jesus. Saul who met Jesus and became known as Paul, fully aware of the death sentence he was signing up to.

    Now let us check this double standard. We have people experiencing something and telling us about it. And we have people not experiencing and deducing based on what they do not experience. Yes, I think we can treat them differently.

  29. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    I suppose they are differing types of evidence, science and ……… whatever you want to call the religious people’s experiences that you believe.

    Compare this with the case of a person who dug up the cube. He has a strong claim. Given the learned man and the cube holder……..

    The problem is the number of incompatible cubes, Jonathan! What of the Jew, Muslim, mystic etc… and they all claim this kind of experiential knowledge. The obvious way for the One True religion would be to go beyond experiential (and historical). But Christianity has firmly cemented itself as being tediously like all other religions – evidence convincing only to those convinced! This fact makes it plainly obvious to any impartial abserver that religions ARE TRUE in an experiential way. But no other. This is the most measured conclusion.

  30. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thanks for sharing Simon. I understand what you are saying, I just disagree.

    a) while you painted all these ‘experiences’ as religious people’s experiences, you have excluded atheists who experience God and thus believe. There are plenty of examples if you wanted to look at them.

    b) a variety of cubes made from sand glued together and painted does not preclude the existence of a real cube. You would have to investigate each to identify the fakes.

    c) neglecting the evidences of design, morality, reason, intelligence and revelation, I think the ultimate proof against naturalism (that you demand) will come upon dying and realising that you are still conscious. Obviously I think this is the case and it appears that you do not. But at least there is a definitive experimental measure there for you. If you are correct, I’ll say, “Gee, apparently I was greatly mistaken and deceived”. Or maybe I won’t because I can’t and it just won’t matter what one did at all.

    I think we are done. You can finish up if you like. Cheers.

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